There are still ongoing debates as to which cut-off percentage of tall cell (TC) should be used to define tall cell variant (TCV) papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). In this meta-analysis, we aimed to investigate the clinicopathological significance of PTC with tall cell features (PTC-TCF, PTC with 10–50% of TCs) in comparison with classical PTC and TCVPTC (PTC with more than 50% of TCs) to clarify the controversial issue. Four electronic databases including PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus and Virtual Health Library were accessed to search for relevant articles. We extracted data from published studies and pooled into odds ratio (OR) and its corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using random-effect modeling. Nine studies comprising 403 TCVPTCs, 325 PTC-TCFs and 3552 classical PTCs were included for meta-analyses. Overall, the clinicopathological profiles of PTC-TCF including multifocality, extrathyroidal extension, lymph node metastasis, distant metastasis and patient mortality were not statistically different from those of TCVPTC. Additionally, PTC-TCF and TCVPTC were both associated with an increased risk for aggressive clinical courses as compared to classical PTC. The prevalence of BRAF mutation in PTC-TCF and TCVPTC was comparable and both were significantly higher than that in classical PTC. The present meta-analysis demonstrated that even a PTC comprising only 10% of TCs might be associated with a poor clinical outcome. Therefore, the proportions of PTC in PTC should be carefully estimated and reported even when the TC component is as little as 10%.